My colleague Heather Moffitt sent me a link to Jason Byassee’s post on “The Mourner as Leader.” Byassee comments on Steven Kepnes’ book Jewish Liturgical Reasoning. It is Kepnes’ observation about the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning for the dead, that captures Byassee’s attention.
Based on Daniel 2:20, the Kaddish is a prayer which declares that God’s name will be praised. “There is very little in it that sounds obviously like a mourner’s prayer.” Byassee notes. “It is more like a praiser’s prayer, except the praiser is barely present as well. It’s a prayer that is first and last about God.”
In his book Kepnes observes that this prayer is never offered alone. What is more, it is the mourner who leads the prayer. Byassee observes, “This is how to lead in the face of death. To stand and announce with a community of fellow praying people that God is King, that God will establish his reign over creation, that God’s name will be praised, and to ask that God would bring all this about soon.”
Here is a link to Byassee’s post on the Call & Response Blog: http://www.faithandleadership.duke.edu/blog/05-25-2010/jason-byassee-the-mourner-leader